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Art Crawling to James South?

One Retailer’s Quest to Expand the Art Crawl South of King Street

Early on in my career, I started out as a jewelry maker, setting up shop at monthly art crawl events. I loved the experience of being a vendor and working alongside such talented artists in the city. Art crawl has grown so much over the past few years and has become a cultural draw for people across Hamilton and beyond. Being a part of art crawl was what prompted me to decide that I really wanted to start my own business and create a place where I was able to showcase other artists’ work and mine as well. This is how my store, Nelle Stelle was born.

When I decided to open my store in Hamilton, I knew that I wanted it to be located along the James Street corridor. The street runs right through the heart of the city centre – connecting the escarpment and Bayfront, two GO stations, and all the shops in between. To me, I see art crawl as a monthly event that brings all of those assets together.

As soon as I found the location for the store, I fell in love with it right away. The business community is very reminiscent of a small town city centre, with a wide variety of boutique shops, restaurants and bars. All of the business owners are friendly and welcoming and are truly proud of what they have to offer. The Hamilton entrepreneurial scene is like nothing I’ve ever experienced – it’s supportive and collaborative, and the culture on James Street is the perfect example of that.

However, as the soft opening of Nelle Stelle approached, I started to hear a similar theme from other store owners in the area: James Street South doesn’t have the same amount of traffic that James Street North does on the nights of art crawl. Thinking back, whenever I went to art crawl, I rarely saw people venture south of King Street during the night. So I saw an opportunity.

With the Nelle Stelle grand opening party on the night of the August art crawl, we’re hoping to encourage more people to venture up to James Street South. We’re excited to share over 20 great local and Ontario artisans and we believe that they should also be recognized. We want to encourage people to make their way from the bay to the escarpment, and truly experience all the hidden gems in between.

Since most of the businesses on James Street South are open late, such as Nelle Stelle, Mezcal, Uno Mas, Radius, and Café Augusta, it’s a great way for crawlers to end their night with a late meal or a drink after exploring the rest of the street.

By including all of the businesses along the James Street corridor in the crawl, it’ll bring more opportunity for the community, economy and culture in Hamilton. Now is the time for businesses on James Street to really start recognizing and promoting the potential benefit that the expansion to, and inclusion of, James Street South will have on future art crawl events. By expanding what the whole street has to offer, it will become an even more desirable destination for visitors from within and outside of Hamilton.

I will continue to host special events on the nights of art crawl in the future and it is my hope that these efforts, along with the efforts of the other business owners on the street will encourage the art crawl party to make its way down to the gem that is James Street South.

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